Unprecedented collaboration has the Borough of Union City poised to make significant investments in its downtown and public parks.
November 12, 2019
November 4, 2019
The Erie Community Foundation (ECF), through its Shaping Tomorrow grant program, recently made a $258,000 grant to Union City Pride. With additional funding in the amount $250,000 from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA), $30,000 from the Union City Community Foundation (UCCF), $1,500 from Union City Borough, and up to $85,000 from downtown building owners with matching fund opportunities, the investment in the downtown and parks will total $624,500, if fully utilized.
“ECF challenged UCCF to think bigger,” said ECF President Mike Batchelor. “We hoped it would move beyond traditional, day-to-day grantmaking and assume a stronger community leadership role, and we are proud the community rose to this challenge.”
“Since early 2019,UCCF actively collaborated with Union City Pride, a community development nonprofit, and Union City Borough to identify projects that would “move the dial” in the community,” said UCCF Board Chairman Steve Jones. “We all love our home town; the idea is to be a more vibrant, progressive, and welcoming community.” The first tangible outcome of the initiative was Union City Pride’s purchase of the former Union City Diner property and adjacent building. “We made a very positive step with the revitalization of downtown Union City through the facade programs and development of design guidelines,” said Union City Pride Board President Dave Nothum, regarding recent downtown historic preservation efforts. “The diner initiative will ensure this momentum continues.” Shaping Tomorrow funding will be used to engage an architectural firm to develop conceptual drawings of the downtown gateway as a blueprint for future development. “It will be exciting to witness the changes as they develop, and see where this transformational community growth can take us,” added Jones.
The third local partner in the initiative is Union City Borough itself. “It’s exciting to be part of the process that will have people traveling through downtown Union City thinking the community looks great,” said Borough Secretary Cindy Wells. “We are seeing so many property improvements, it only makes sense for improvements to this intersection, the crossroads of the Borough.” Tangible change will also come in the form of a new public parking lot on the west side of Main Street. “The new lot, funded by both ECF and ECGRA monies, will serve the Public Library and nearby merchants, going a long way toward helping grow business in that portion of the downtown,” added Wells. The parking lot project is expected to begin in 2020.
ECF and ECGRA funds will also be used to hire an architectural firm to conduct structural assessments of many historic downtown buildings. Completed assessments will be provided to building owners at no cost, and any identified potential improvements will be eligible for up to $85,000 in matching funds supplied to the Borough through an ECGRA Mission Main Street grant awarded earlier this year.
UCCF Board Chair Steve Jones said the community’s downtown has seen disinvestment in recent decades as downtown shopping was siphoned off by malls, stand-alone retailers, big box stores, and the Internet. He said UCCF, Union City Pride and the Borough believe the financial injection represented by the structural assessments, matching funds and other initiatives are necessary to generate additional investment and improve the downtown’s viability moving forward. “If we create the necessary environment, and help restore an economic model that makes sense, private entrepreneurs will see the opportunity in our downtown and take it from there,” said Jones.
Perry Wood, ECGRA Executive Director, agrees. “Erie County Main Streets are the heart of local economies and the gathering ground for neighbors to meet, shop, eat, relax and connect,” said Wood. “ECGRA is investing in Union City’s business district as part of an overall strategic effort to improve the business environment and enhance community offerings that make towns like Union City desirable places to live, work and play.”
In addition to the downtown initiatives, ECF, ECGRA, and Borough funds will be used to improve the Borough’s Caflisch Park in a strategic effort to attract families. A total of $101,500 is targeted to improvements to make Caflisch Park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as other changes. This work dovetails with Union City’s recent award of a separate $50,000 state grant to create a master development plan for all four of the Borough’s parks.
“Our $258,000 investment in Union City is being leveraged, and serves as crucial matching funds for other projects,” added Batchelor. “With donor support, we help our communities think bigger. It is clear this is a community-wide, collaborative plan, and the way to move a community forward.”
Wood added, “The strong collaboration between Union City Borough, Union City Pride, UCCF, ECF and ECGRA is empowering a key revitalization effort in one of Erie County’s finest towns. As a result of this unprecedented collaboration, these investments will make a lasting impact on the long-term viability of this historic town.”
Union City Pride’s Dave Nothum agrees. “By working closely together, we have focused our efforts toward our combined goal for the revitalization of Union City,” he said.
For additional information, contact Cindy Wells of Union City Borough at 814-438-2331.
Erin Fessler, Erie Community Foundation,
VP of Marketing & Community Relations, 814-454-0843
Kate Phillips, ECGRA
Media Relations, 215-850-4647
Steve Bishop, Union City Community Foundation
Project Manager, 814-438-2331